AP NEWS

Chicago Bears’ egos bruised, bodies battered

December 21, 2017

LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Wednesday at Halas Hall was a day for Chicago Bears coaches and players to talk about Pro Bowl snubs and once again . . . injuries.

There was nothing stunning about the NFC and AFC Pro Bowl teams announced Tuesday night but it had to be disappointing for Akiem Hicks, Jordan Howard and Kyle Fuller.

The Pro Bowl is nothing more than a popularity contest in which the best players have no better than a 50-50 chance of getting chosen, and invariably a significant number of the most deserving are left out.

Howard, Hicks and Fuller all had Pro Bowl-worthy seasons, in which Howard and Fuller lost a numbers game because they played for a 4-10 team, and Hicks just plain got screwed.

Fuller is deserving of a Pro Bowl nod but it’s impossible to say Patrick Peterson, Xavier Rhodes, Marshon Lattimore and Darius Slay aren’t. Peterson’s reputation precedes him, and the other three all play for playoff contenders.

Fuller lost out mainly because the Bears sucked.

Howard lost out to Todd Gurley, Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, and again, it’s tough to criticize anything about any of those three backs’ seasons. Both nearly double up Howard in TDs – again, that’s on the Bears, not Howard – but neither Saint matches him running the ball, a running back’s primary responsibility.

If the Bears were 10-4, like the Saints and the Rams, Howard would have beaten out Ingram.

In Hicks’ case, nobody is going to beat out Fletcher Cox or Aaron Donald, but as good a player as Gerald McCoy is, Hicks was much better this season, and McCoy’s Bucs are 4-10, just like the Bears.

Like I said, a popularity contest — and that’s not the worst of it. That Hicks was voted just the fourth alternate at his position is criminal – or would be if these things really mattered.

Kyle Long was voted a second alternate at guard – this year! I love Kyle Long and believe he will be a Pro Bowler again when healthy, but you have to be on the field to be the fifth-best guard in the NFC.

Hicks didn’t shrink from expressing his disappointment.

“Man, it’s like telling a kid he ain’t getting no presents for Christmas, you know what I mean?

“But I’ll be all right. I’ll survive as long as the fans in Chicago treat me as one of their favorite players, I’ll be happy.”

So why were injuries on the table again?

Pernell McPhee became the 15th Bear added to the injured reserve list this year, and while the news that Kyle Long had surgery on Tuesday surprised no one, that it was for a herniated disc in his neck, and not his shoulder or bum ankle, was news.

Still, head coach John Fox refuses to believe the Bears are outliers with the number of disabled players they seem to constantly feature.

“No, again, when you look around the league,” Fox said, “I don’t think we’re the lone ranger. It’s a part of football.

“It’s a part of everything you look at — whether it’s veteran players, whether it’s getting younger; whether it’s, I think, the game has just gotten faster.

“The injuries are up, I think, around the league.”

There is truth in what Fox says but there is also truth in the premise that the Bears have lost more key players than most in recent seasons.

McPhee has been a perennial patient since coming to town, and Fox seemed to indicate he might be getting tired of being asked if there is a way to keep McPhee healthy.

“Probably left him in the training room. That’s healthier than playing football.

“This has been a shoulder. It’s one he tried to go with. He gutted it up and actually played pretty well in the Detroit game.

“But he kind of re-tweaked it and with two games remaining I think it’s probably better for him and us that we put him on injured reserve.”

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